House Dems 'Caved In' to Clinton on Death Tax Veto Override

By Jim Burns | July 7, 2008 | 8:26 PM EDT

( - House Ways and Means Committee Chairman Bill Archer (R-TX) Friday said President Bill Clinton effectively "stonewalled" bi-partisan cooperation in the House when it failed this week to override Clinton's veto of the Death Tax Elimination Act, which would have ended federal taxes on family estates, gifts and trusts by 2010.

The veto override came up 13 votes shy of the two-thirds majority necessary to override Clinton's veto. But 13 Democrats who voted in favor on the legislation when it first passed the House in June voted Thursday against overriding the veto, and Archer thinks those Democrats succumbed to political pressure, most of it from the White House.

"They clearly caved in to the political pressure of the White House and the Minority Leader (House Democratic Leader Richard Gephardt, D-MO). I'm not going to make a judgment as to why people can be inconsistent. I supposed their voting public will do that," Archer told reporters in a conference call on Friday.

However, Archer believes that Congress may have set a historical precedent by passing the Death Tax Elimination Act earlier this year.

"It is historic that the Congress, for the first time since the death tax was put on the books, has voted in both Houses to repeal it. So, the Congress, legislatively, has done all that under our Constitution it has the power to do," said Archer. "I think it's remarkable that over 50 Democrats in the House resisted the arm twisting and voted to override the president. I thought that was a very, very positive movement in the right direction."

Archer doesn't foresee any more action on the Death Tax Elimination Act in this session of Congress. "We have done all we can do in this Congress, legislatively. The president has stonewalled a bipartisan initiative once again and under our Constitution that becomes the end of it," Archer said.

Clinton said in a statement that he was happy the House failed to override his veto. "This is a misguided bill that provides a huge tax cut for the most well-off Americans at the expense of working families. It is a key ingredient of a Republican tax plan that would leave nothing for Social Security, Medicare, education, or a voluntary, affordable prescription drug benefit," read the statement.

Meanwhile, Republicans are expected next week to try to override Clinton's veto of the marriage penalty. That bill is designed to reduce taxes on married couples who pay more federal taxes on their combined income than if they filed separately. Clinton and most Democrats oppose this bill as well, saying it would cut taxes for couples that are not affected by the marriage penalty, including couples that now pay less filing jointly than they would as single taxpayers.